Monday, January 11, 2016

Two Putinist ‘Totalitarian Sects’ May Prove Anything But Harmless, Yakovenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 11 – A basis feature of Vladimir Putin’s regime is the rise of “a quasi-civil society, in which various patriotic totalitarian sets are sprouting like mushrooms,” as can be seen by examining the rise of two of the most notorious of these, the Zinovievites and the Izborsky-Prokhanovites, according to Igor Yakovenko. 

            Over the past year these two groups have become increasingly prominent in the Russian media space, a reflection of the support they have from the Kremlin and of the ways the Putin regime is seeking to reshape the way in which Russians think about their country and the world around it (

            According to the Moscow commentator, these two “clubs” are the most significant of the lot given their rapidly growing presence in the media. Indeed, the Zinoviev Club was established as “an expert research space for Russia Today” and views as its task “the formation of ‘a just image of Russia in the world’ in opposition to ‘liberal and neo-liberal pseudo-democratic propaganda.’”

            “Every day on the first page of the main government information site, RIA Novosti, there are two or three articles by members of [this] club,” including Vladimir Lepekhin, Dmitry Kulikov and Olga Zinoviev. The Izborsky Club includes mostly people who go on television to promote similar views, and its prominent members include Aleksandr Prokhanov, Nikolay Starikov and Mikhail Delyagin, but they also appear in the print media as well.

            Distinguishing between these two groups and among their members is not always easy because they follow much the same line and receive government grants and support. But “if in the sect of the Izbortsy has been established Stalinism as a new religion with its chief prophet being Prokhanov, then among the Zinovievites, the source of truth naturally is the late [author] and the role of chief prophet, authorized to broadcast in his name, is his widow Olga.”

Unlike the other figures in these two groups, Zinoviev himself was truly a serious and even tragic figure who evolved from anti-Stalinist to logician to a major writer, Yakovenko says. In fact, his ideology evolution was similar to that of Solzhenitsyn: “from a fighter against the GULAG to the denial of the idea of freedom and the support of Putin’s imperial course.”

But there is one important difference, the Moscow commentator says. Zinoviev always insisted that Russia had come to its end and that for him “the chief concern is the fate of West European civilization,” a stress that sets him apart from many if not all of the others in the two clubs.

Many of the others have complicated pasts albeit different ones than Zinoviev’s.  Kulikov, for example, who now talks about the horrors going on in Ukraine and how Ukrainians should be “grateful to Putin,” at one point was a political consultant to many of the leading Ukrainian politicians.

These “patriotic totalitarian sects of late Putinism,” Yakovenko says, appear “quite harmless” even though their views are informed by fascism and Stalinism because they are so extreme few take them seriously. But no one knows what will come after Putin, he observes, and many seem to have forgotten that in Russia, truly frightening “freaks” have taken power before.

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